Design Proposal First Draft


It is widely understood that stress has a significant influence on health and wellness. In the study of epigenetics, stress is often a trigger that can influence gene expression negatively, as to foster chronic illness in the body over time. The Student Health Services (SHS) at The New School (TNS), offers many program, services and resources that aim to promote health. SHS is a great resource for students who are concerned about their health or feel they are being impacted by a stressful lifestyle. Despite having Peer Health Advocates (PHAs), student workers, interns and volunteers who act as representatives of SHS within the student body, unfortunately not all students are aware of all of the resources SHS has to offer. According to Forbes magazine there are 10,477 students currently enrolled at TNS. 1487 is the cumulative number of follower on SHS’s social media accounts, this only accounts for roughly 15% of the student population. That being said, this calculation is not taking into consideration that some people may be follow SHS on each social media platform, which would lower the percentage. This brought me to develop the following research question to a system for SHS:

Since health and wellness are directly linked to epigenetic gene expression through stress, how can the health and wellness services and resources available within Student Health Services (SHS) be made more accessible through the existing Peer Heath Advocates (PHA’s) in order to further promote health and wellness?

In this design proposal I will outline a proposed system that looks to enhance communication and awareness of SHS programs and services by building connection between PHAs and the student body. Documentation of research processes and proposed system design will work to lay the foundation for my work. The prototype will highlight the potential applications of this proposal. Lastly the engagement strategy and its documentation will look to demonstrate the pertinence of this system design to enhancing the already existing model in which the PHAs use to engage students.


The topic of my proposed system is related to my seminar topic on epigenetic through the influences of stress on gene expression and as a result health. Below are the key sources for my research on epigenetics and its relationship to stress:


  • “Epigenetics and the Biological Definition of Gene × Environment Interactions” is a peer reviewed article on how epigenetics function and what its implications may be one health.
  • “Maternal Care and Individual Differences in Defensive Responses” is a peer reviewed article that conducted a study on rats to discuss the behavioral effect of maternal care on genetics expression and stress reactivity.


SHS is an existing system at TNS that works to help students deal with stress. Therefore, I conducted research on the way SHS functions and what exactly their strategy is to communicate with students?


  • The New Schools “Student Health Services” website provides information on SHS programs, services and PHAs.
  • SHS Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) proved to be helpful as it demonstrated and activity and presence online.
  • A conversation with Tamara, cleared up any of my misunderstandings in regards to the way that PHAs work within SHS.


Overall my research from studio and seminar shaped my design decisions because with every new source I reorganized and redefined what exactly I designed.

Selected System

Having completed research on epigenetics as well as SHS the research question that informs my selected system became:

Since health and wellness are directly linked to epigenetic gene expression through stress, how can the health and wellness services and resources available within Student Health Services (SHS) be made more accessible through the existing Peer Heath Advocates (PHA’s) in order to further promote health and wellness?

In this way, the system I am designing around is that of the implementation of PHAs with SHS. Therefore, my point of intervention would be in adapting their existing model to enhance student and PHAs relations. Since the purpose of this system is to promote services and programs provided by SHS by enhancing connections between students and PHAs, the people who would be impacted are as follows; the SHS workers who could potentially receive a higher attendance rate to their programs and as a result potentially more funding, the PHAs who would be the ones who would be actively implementing this proposed system, and students who would be impacted through a greater awareness and knowledge of SHS as a resource. Indeed, this system relates to the research question because it is actively seeking enhance the promotion of health and wellness by using SHS and modifying the way in which PHAs interact with students.

Section 2: Prototype

The prototype that follows works to modify the way in which PHAs interact with students throughout the school year. It highlights adjustments to orientation, the need and potential for in class presentation of resources and introduction to PHAs, engagement with international student, more accessible social media presence so that students can get to know PHAs, as well as reflection and student surveys to see where improvement can be made. The software that was used to create this prototype is InDesign. If I were to make this design in the next iteration, it would evolve from being a document that outlines the potential points of intervention to being a document of several pages that would going into detail on how to begin implementing these suggestions. For each proposed modification I would do additional research as to what other systems would be connecting to SHS to make these changes possible. I would also investigate and document what the limitations would be and how PHAs could potentially get around certain them.


Section 3: Engagement + Documentation

Engagement Strategy

The strategy in which I planned to utilize in order to engage my indented audience targeted three groups of people that would be influenced by the system. These three groups are; SHS workers who are in charge of the Wellness and Health Promotion (WHP) Programs as they work closely with PHAs and organize services and programs, the PHAs because they would be the ones to put the proposed system into action, and students who have varying knowledge of SHS and PHAs. A meaningful sample size for these groups would be, 2 SHS workers in charge of WHP, 2 PHAs, and 3 New School Students. The SHS worker and PHAs would be contacted by email and students would be approached I person. In each scenario, the member of the audience will be presented with the prototype followed by questions for them to answer about the pertinence of this system. I will available to answer any questions about the project so as to have my audience engage successfully with my prototype. I planned to document engagement through the written responses I received from my engaged audience. Thus the required preparation for this engagement is the question I would ask to each group of people.

Include documentation of your outreach strategy with your intended audience and an analysis of the effectiveness of your strategy.

  • Documentation may include photos and video, written feedback, website data or social media stats, etc.  Be creative!
  • How many people did you engage with?
  • Was the engagement meaningful? Why and why not?
  • What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently?
  • How are you evaluating whether your engagement was efficient or not?



Section 4: Reflection

The most meaningful lessons during this design process were related to the realization that my research was allowing me to narrow and specify what my system design would look like. The more I conducted research the more my prototype had a sense of purpose. In addition, I realized that in the process of engaging my audience I was still conducting research as a means of understanding the potential for implementing my proposed system. For instance, it took me longer then I had anticipated to connect with workers of SHS and PHAs however as soon as I had conversations with them, the direction in which I needed to work or what could be improved became clearer. My biggest challenges were in contacting people and getting them to engage with my prototype meaningfully during such a busy time in the school year. I addressed this challenge talking directly with people in person and asking them if they had some time to engage with my prototype. If I had more time I would probably look to reevaluate my prototype based on the feedback I received, and then re-engage a new set of people and get in contact with PHAs. In the future I am interested in putting the first proposition regarding the implementation of SHS resource information during orientation into action. I will be an Orientation Leader this summer, therefore, I most likely will be doing this by collecting information on social media handles, program and services to compile them on to one page to distribute to freshmen during orientation.


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